A Queer Upbringing.

Pride, in bold white text, on a glittery rainbow background.

Audio:

Contrary to the title of this blog there are other aspects to my identity besides disability, and while I’m open about my sexuality (and more recently my gender identity), I haven’t exactly divulged a lot of details about either. That is about to change.

Let’s start with the basics; what do I mean by “bisexual”? Bisexuals can be attracted to anyone of any gender. Technically speaking the term “pansexual” is probably more appropriate as bisexual could be deemed to exclude non-binary genders, but people are more familiar with the term bisexual, and the flag has nicer colours. Bisexuality doesn’t mean I’m attracted to everyone; I do actually have standards. This also doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to myself; boobs are awesome, but I prefer them on other people.

Now that we’ve established what I mean by bisexual, the next step is to look at the Kinsey scale. This is the most robust method we currently have for quantifying someone’s sexuality, although of course sexuality is virtually impossible to define in this manner, and the Kinsey scale doesn’t tend to include asexuals or other such sexualities. Anyway, on the Kinsey scale heterosexuals have a low score, homosexuals have a high score, and bisexuals are somewhere in the middle. However, bisexuals do not necessarily sit exactly in the centre. I have taken a few tests based on this scale and invariably I come out at about 70% homosexual. In retrospect, this explains a lot.

Nor is gender-fluidity dissimilar to bisexuality, simply swapping attraction to different genders for how I describe my own gender. However, whereas my experience of bisexuality has always been relatively consistent as to what I find attractive, my gender identity seems to rocket back and forth between male and female, with a few stops at neutral points in between. It’s pretty wild.

Due to the natural fluidity of sexuality and gender, knowing either is not necessarily intuitive nor obvious. It’s very easy to assume that you are the gender assigned to you at birth, or to assume that you’re straight, as these are deemed the norm. Unless you are given reason to question these “facts”, the assumptions will be made. Given that I experience femininity and attraction to men, I seemingly had no reason to question my identity on either front. Amazingly, this can even be in spite of evidence to the contrary.

I grew up in a church-going household with heterosexual parents. This isn’t going where you think; there was never any homophobia or transphobia from my parents, although unfortunately, there was the occasional homophobic comment from extended family. All told, this upbringing simply never gave me reason to question what I thought I knew, so I didn’t question anything.

School, I’m afraid to say, was a very different experience. Homophobic and transphobic slurs were commonplace, anyone thought to be queer was bullied mercilessly regardless of whether they were or not, and sex education was exclusively heterosexual and divided by perceived gender. Even worse, in citizenship and religious education classes, we were made to debate whether being homosexual was right and whether homosexuals deserved basic human rights. We were taught that as long as we weren’t beating up homosexuals, pretty much anything else was OK. In addition, gender identity was never so much as mentioned.

In addition to all of this, exposure to LGBTQAI+ themes was extremely limited everywhere I went. In fact, I didn’t even know bisexuality was a thing until Lady Gaga dropped the bi-bomb with Poker Face, and I thought that questioning gender identity was limited to people who undergo a medical transition like Caitlyn Jenner. The lack of exposure to LGBTQAI+ culture has a lot to answer for when it comes to people finding their identity.

As a result of the non-exposure, I really was confused on all fronts. I remember watching music channels as a teenager and feeling attracted to the women dancing on screen, often with varying amounts of clothes on (but the nipples were always conveniently covered). I felt confused. I felt ashamed. I suppressed it. I was bullied enough for being an uncool nerd as it was; I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire.

Even as a university student, I still identified as straight. In my second year of study I got a boyfriend (now husband), and he introduced me to the world of wrestling. I discovered that I loved wrestling; the music, the costumes, the lights, and of course the impressive athletic feats pulled off both inside and out of the ring. I was also very fond of a few of the women in wrestling (heart Asuka). It took a long time, but finally, after over twenty years of misunderstanding, the penny dropped. I was bisexual.

I came out. I attended my first pride. The feeling of liberation after years of suppression I hadn’t even known existed was intoxicating, but something inside still didn’t feel right. It would take three more years and a months-long introspection (thank you, coronavirus) to finally figure out that my gender was not as it appeared on the surface. Finally, at age 24, I no longer had to lie to myself or those around me. At least by now, the homophobes from school are long gone from my life, and the rest of the people in my life are supportive.

Now there’s a pride and a bisexuality flag on permanent display in my window, and I hope to add a gender fluid one to that collection too. I also like to confuse straight people by talking about being queer and my husband in the same sentence.

Nowt as queer as folk, I guess.

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